Aaron Sorkin, writer of THE WEST WING, THE SOCIAL NETWORK and the upcoming biopic on Steve Jobs, recently gave the Commencement address at Syracuse University.
The text is, surprisingly for a man of his talents, mostly blech – work hard, stay off drugs – but here’s a few lines that really resonated with me:
Every once in a while, you’ll succeed. Most of the time you’ll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control. How you live matters. You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.
As some of you know, the start-up I spent the last two years of my life building (Perdomo Cigars Australia) just went belly-up. Not because it was a bad business – it was doing quite well – but because the other guy involved in the business was involved in ANOTHER business that closed down and because of a whole bunch of things I won’t bore you with, it dragged the cigar business down with it.
In times like that, it’s easy to kick yourself for a bunch of reasons – like getting involved with the wrong people, not trusting your gut (or your wife) when it/she tells you “this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing” – but that doesn’t help. Hindsight is great later on when you are doing a post-game analysis of the lessons learned. But the most important thing you need to remember when the shit hits the fan and your life cracks is GET BACK UP.
I’ve got two questions I always ask myself when things go bad.
1. What does this situation enable me to do that I couldn’t do before?
2. How can I turn this situation to my advantage?
I’ve found that these two questions quickly re-program my brain in times of drama to think about the upsides and not worry about the downsides (or about how the downsides came to happen in the first place). There’s time for analysis later.